Desert Southwest (CO,AZ,UT,NM), Trip Reports » G.E.T. Part 3 – Charlie Moore and the Wildbunch


We got the full local scoop from Bucky Allred at the Blue Front Cafe in Glenwood. He did encourage us to join his organization that aims to keep existing roads and trails more or less open. Other topics included the dastardly Mexican Wolf, grazing in general and how the ‘good old boys’ knew what they were doing back in the 60’s. Nothing outrageous and you could tell the guy had a heart of gold.

They cook a mean, well, everything, in that place. Best food of the trip by far.

We rolled a few miles pavement to Alma.

fording the san francisco river near alma, nm

“That’ll cool the pups down!!”

The river was cold, and I was anxious to get to climbing. 3000’+ elevation to gain, with unknown trail conditions.

Sunflower Mesa came and went peacefully. As if placed by curse, as soon as we crossed the state line back into Arizona things got a little rowdy:

Volcanic rock, and lot’s of it. But we were riding, and the elevation was ticking away. Onto singletrack we turned, giving a brief smooth section here or there. Signs of pruning and maintenance gave hope for the rest of the day.

Descending off Charlie Moore mountain turned into a chore — a burn area gave way to rough and slow conditions and the dreaded high elevation briar bush made an appearance. I’m usually pretty resilient when it comes to getting torn up by the many vegetative wonders Arizona has to offer. But the briar was getting to me today, for reasons I don’t quite understand.

The burn didn’t take all that long to negotiate, and part of the frustration was that we were walking downhill. I was prepared to walk up all day.

Good thing. The switchbacks up Maple Peak (8300′) would be rideable down, but were too steep and narrow to get much of a purchase. A pleasant walk, though, really.

The snow provided an additional challenge, drawing some blood on my shins and proving we were the first humans of the season to venture onto the trail. Lee had a bit of a mishap, slipping off the snow and falling ass over tea kettle. No biggie except that it aggravated an existing shoulder injury.

We attained the ridge, but as the grade eased the fallen trees and volcanic rock resumed. I broke branches and cleared trees ahead as I waited for Lee to catch up. It was slow going and the further we got the lower my expectations dropped for riding.

I started grumbling internally at the sight of more briars. Turning into quite a deal, it was.

So I suggested we stop and eat lunch. I tried to detect any sign of frustration in Lee, but there was none. He was in as good of spirits as ever. Maybe my standards (for being able to ride) are too high, but regardless I learned a bit from Lee’s unflinching attitude.

King size snickers, an orange and incredible views of all the terrain we’d been riding for the last 3 days; all was right in the world.

While Lee was eating I scouted ahead on foot, kicking branches and throwing trees off the trail. As far as I went it didn’t look good, but we remounted to ride the 100 feet I had cleared.

3 or 4 log piles later the trail turned into pristine forest and though the trail was traceless, it was rideable everywhere. An orange flag from Brett Tucker kept us on course as we weaved between pines.

Maybe we’d ride afterall…

One leg out, tripod-style, but riding nonetheless. Good trail tread, really, but narrow and covered with front-wheel-diverting baby heads.

I was happy to have survived the descent, but now the task was finding the trail. After a gate several cow trails led to false leads, and it looked like Brett’s flag had been eaten or purposely untied.

Some searching led to an obvious rock crib wall, and a bit of a line following a narrow escarpment. The true nature of the Wildbunch Trail was revealed to us: impossibly rocky.

Words fail to describe Wildbunch. It was amazingly free of brush, but just rocky enough to be unrideable. We traversed towards Morris Day Gap, finding an exquisite little spring that had recently had a small mortar/rock wall built around it to keep cattle out. We pumped a gallon or two and drank quite a bit. Though it was mostly downhill to the Blue River, and not that far, conditions were proving slow and we may not make it by sun down.

I don’t know if the trail got any easier (impossibly rocky still fits it to a “T”), but we both started riding, and boy was it a wild ride. I’d get on and ride until my threshold for continuous buckin’ bronco riding was reached, failing or falling off the side of the trail somewhere. Then I’d watch as Lee would ride a little further before reaching his own threshold.

We leap frogged each other down the trail. High focus riding, but the kind that you can’t help but grin at. Unrideable sections would appear, sure, but overall we were having a blast and just marveling in this remote place we found ourselves in. Each stop would force a 360 degree view and a new cliff face or canyon to inspect.

As the trail dropped into Wildbunch Canyon itself Lee heard a hound dog in the distance. Lion hunters, we figured. Our sense of solitude was fading as I realized we were getting somewhat near a driveable road.

During a few stops to laugh and marvel at what we’d been riding through we tried to ascertain the position of the pup. His bark was echoing on the cliffs, which made it difficult. Finally I spotted him on the opposite wall, and it was obvious he was hurt and alone. We called him over, then resumed our slow crawl down the canyon.

He caught us quickly, and had a collar, but we couldn’t get him to come over (otherwise we could call the owner). He limped on down the trail in front of us, eventually disappearing.

Lower Wildbunch was slow, but I found it quiet enjoyable. Never continuously rideable, but always interesting around every corner, and still featuring plenty of coasting. Coasting and smiling, the sun setting–it doesn’t get much better than this.

Graded Juan Miller road was a welcome sight, however, and the ability to both ride and look at the same time was even more welcome.

the blue river gorge, from juan miller road

We descended blissfully down to the Blue, debating about where to camp. When we saw how high the river was running it was an easy choice — best to get across now.

It wasn’t as high as it looked. We found a spot in the sand where the rushing river would lull us to sleep. Around two in the morning I was listening to deception of the thrush as the moon lit the cliffs around us. There are advantages to sleeping under the stars, especially when you can’t sleep much.

After pumping water in the morning we were off to climb Juan Miller Road, then explore more singletrack back to the Coronado Trail and, eventually, Morenci and Clifton.

Comments (1)

Fernando Gzz. H.November 19th, 2010 at 10:30 pm

nice pictures !!!

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